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Novato Patch's Person of the Year for 2011: Toni Shroyer

Based on reader votes, newfound community activist has a lot of supporters.

At the end of December, Novato Patch asked its readers which individual deserved to be . Based on the comments added to that prompt, it was obvious that Toni Shroyer had a lot of fans in our town. She is being recognized as Novato's Person of the Year for 2011 (not to be confused with the annual Novato Citizen of the Year awarded at the Paint the Town Red event).

Shroyer, a real estate agent by trade, became a de facto community activist during the that struck Novato during the city’s general plan update and poured hours of her time into researching the hot-button issue. She also became heavily involved in the monitoring of police calls for service after it was revealed that the had a higher-than average rate of calls.

Novato Patch asked her to answer a few questions about the commitment she made to the community and what it’s been like from her angle.

What was it that triggered your intense involvement in civic issues in 2011, and why?

I received a call from a friend in June 2010 who told me the city was planning on rezoning people's land (without their consent) for 313 units of high-density, low-income housing within less than half a square mile area. The city had targeted heritage homes and properties of families who have been in Novato for generations.

The concentration of poverty in housing projects never works but is a cash cow for developers.  That phone call changed my life and ignited my civic involvement, which continued in 2011 and today. My parents did not raise a shrinking violet.

Was the time you invested in taking a public role well worth it? Why or why not?

I wasn't planning on taking on a public role in the city. I naively assumed that if I presented community concerns to the city of Novato our problems would be fixed promptly and efficiently. I had to become vocal when serious problems in our community were simply being ignored.

It was worth reporting the Novato City Council to the D.A.'s office for not following the Brown Act, California’s open meeting law. If we don't have adequate public notice, we lose our democracy.

After 1,483 police calls in a three-year period to the Wyndover Apartments, I had to speak out about the injustices of the system. The investors of Wyndover do not pay any real estate taxes, lack accountability and receive almost $2 million in rents annually while not providing safe housing for the poor. Finally, the state told Wyndover to put security gates in the parking lot and security cameras in the complex (the NPD has done an excellent job with dealing with all of the crime at Wyndover).

The Pennies for Police Dogs Campaign with the goal of providing funding for narcotics training for all three police dogs. Enhancing our public safety is definitely worth it. Painting over gang graffiti and picking up shopping carts that have been abandoned around town has resulted in a lot less blight. That’s been worth it.

It has been rewarding to be a part of these positive results. The people's involvement in Novato is vital. One person can make a difference in our town and that person can be you too.

Who were the most inspirational Novato people you encountered in 2011?

Elizabeth Sleath, Pam Drew and Will Lieb.

Elizabeth Sleath is our tireless fundraiser for School Fuel. Elizabeth's children are grown, and she is still helping ours. Thanks to Elizabeth and School Fuel, we are able to keep electives, such as music, in Novato's public schools.

Pam Drew is Novato's best community organizer and Novato citizen's No. 1 researcher. Pam has uncovered the inconsistencies with our government's Sustainable Communities Strategies (SCS).  Pam has exposed increased density causes loss of quality of life, creates local pollution and congestion.

Will Lieb is a third-generation Novato resident, our last chicken rancher and Novato's unsung hero.  Will ran for Novato City Council in the ‘60s and ‘70s and was fighting for the same issues we are still fighting for today: private property rights, preservation of open spaces and fiscal responsibility in our local government. Developers were always circling his property like vultures and he fought them off all his life and won. In September he said to me, "What you are doing in Novato (activism) won't make friends or get you on any boards, but keep doing it!"

Why do you enjoy living in Novato?

I love living in Novato because this is a community of engagement instead of rage. The good people of Novato have the courage to speak out about injustices in our government and have the pride to stick up for their town. If there is a problem, residents become part of the solution.  This is one of the last areas in Marin where neighbors can have livestock in their backyards and drive John Deeres in their front. There are endless activities for people to be involved in, from attending events at the Margaret Todd Senior Center, to shopping in Old Town to riding a horse at Novato Horseman's. I love living in Novato because the people are very down to earth, diverse, welcoming, friendly and kind. My family and I feel much supported, appreciated and loved in this community.

What is the most urgent issue in 2012 for Novato? 

The most urgent issue in 2012 is getting back our local control and our democracy. Our government is steamrolling ahead with regional control, bypassing our local control, and our democracy has been eroded. Our private property rights are being attacked. We need to bring back our democracy and fight against governmental dictatorship. We can, we are and we will. The good people of Novato never cease to amaze me.

Rick Fraites January 12, 2012 at 05:50 PM
Congratulations Toni. You are living proof that hard work pays off. You keep going girl!
Gina Mahan January 12, 2012 at 06:09 PM
Well deserved.........Congrats to you Toni and thanks for all you do for our community!
Bill Sockolov January 12, 2012 at 06:25 PM
I can't imagine a better choice for Person of the Year. Congrats, Toni!! Your tireless energy and commitment to our community is most inspirational. Thank you for all you do.
Susan Kirsch January 12, 2012 at 07:17 PM
Even here in southern Marin, we know about Toni's tireless passion and leadership to maintain local control and strengthen democracy. Hats off to the people of Novato for a first-rate choice for Person of the Year!
kai lancaster January 12, 2012 at 07:25 PM
Thank you, Toni for all your time and effort. You are much appreicated. Wishing you and your family a successful, joyful, and healthy coming year.
Edwin Drake January 12, 2012 at 07:40 PM
Toni is wonderful and deserves this and more. On a larger issue, and not directed particularly at Toni, how is it that someone so concerned, smart, and effective is not on the council? Either Toni or someone else, how do we get top notch people to run for office?
Stefani Warcholski January 12, 2012 at 08:54 PM
Toni, Congrats! No one is more deserving than you. Not only do you fight for what you believe in, but you inspire others. I believe you are Novato's leading person, not only are you involved and dedicated to the community, but the tireless volunteering you do for the schools in unbelievable. I'm so glad I know you.
Lloyd January 12, 2012 at 09:02 PM
A perfect choice in an imperfect world. I do not know anyone who has devoted more time and energy the last 18 months to standing up to the status quo and demanding we all do better for each other and our town. We all should take a moment and ask what we can do further the work Toni has begun for all our benefits.
David Stompe January 12, 2012 at 10:24 PM
Thank you Toni & congratulations on the recognition!
camille morehen January 13, 2012 at 02:24 AM
Congratulations Toni! You should be getting mother, wife, horsewoman and kind person of the year! Hope you are doing well. You look beautiful!
Pam Drew January 13, 2012 at 03:37 AM
Congratulations, Toni! You have done more to improve conditions in Novato than anybody I know. Your are unstoppable, unbeatable, and unsinkable. If you lived within the city limits rather than only in Novato's sphere of influence, who knows what the Planning Commission might be doing today!
Barbara McCann January 13, 2012 at 04:21 AM
Congratulations Toni. We have never met but I have admired and applauded all your efforts on behalf of Novato this last year. Well done and much deserved!
John Parnell January 13, 2012 at 04:44 AM
Unfortunately, Toni couldn't bask in her glory today, because as she was in front of Costco this afternoon, collecting signatures for our petition to repeal Measure Q (with her kids I might add), she was bullied & harassed by one of the SMARTrider Coalition. He tried to stand between her ironing board & the voters to "block" them from signing the petition. The nice manager at Costco called security, who was unable to stop the man from letting Toni exercise her constitutional rights, so he had to call the police. She was nice enough to take a picture of him, which you can see at: http://facebook.com/stopsmart I guess that is the SMART way of congratulating Toni on her award. Oh, and to answer some of you for her...Toni, like myself, lives in unincorporated Novato - so she is not eligible for the Council. But don't you think she would make an excellent Supervisor?
joyceapplen January 13, 2012 at 05:02 AM
Congratulations Toni. You truly are an inspiration. Thanks for all of your hard work. Novato needs you and more like you.
Brent Ainsworth (Editor) January 13, 2012 at 03:30 PM
FYI, everyone: This recognition came straight from the votes of Novato Patch readers and should not be confused with Paint the Town Red's Novato Citizen of the Year award.
Bob January 13, 2012 at 03:37 PM
Who picks the "Paint the Town Red" citizen of the year? The Chamber of Commerce? They seem to be running everything else in this town.
Craig Belfor January 13, 2012 at 04:23 PM
I think the Chamber does that. They make the decisions that put us in the red.
Craig Belfor January 13, 2012 at 04:27 PM
By the way-someone said Toni can't run for council because she lives in the unincorporated part of Novato. If we incorporated her area, we'd have a larger land mass that would bring the ghetto builders back, and her pasture looks like it could hold a few units. It's best just to vote for whom she likes.
Edwin Drake January 13, 2012 at 05:55 PM
Toni aside - Novato should expand boundary lines to capture the property tax from households they already service with police and fire. For example: there's no reason the houses towards the of Center Street, going towards Stafford Lake, are in county jurisdiction. That's all County up there, why? This is one small example of how Novato City gov't is asleep at the wheel unless it's a developer asking for giveaways.
Tina McMillan January 13, 2012 at 06:04 PM
Edwin I've wondered about that too. I tried doing a search to come up with a map that shows which parts of Novato remain unincorporated. It would be interesting to see if Novato was able to claim those areas as city property if it would increase our property tax base or simply add more infrastructure cost.
Christine January 13, 2012 at 09:31 PM
Congratulations Toni. I've heard loads of only wonderful things about you. Thank you for all you do.
Bob January 13, 2012 at 10:57 PM
Usually residential tax base does not cover the costs of services and infrastructure. Novato Fire is a Special District and is covered by the tax base even in the unincorporated areas. I think sewer is the same but not all unincorporated areas have sewer. The unincorporated areas in Novato get their law enforcement from Marin County Sheriff and the roads are maintained by the county. Most subdivisions in Novato were incorporated when they were built. I think it is a loss for the city to incorporate those areas now. I do like the Idea of Toni running for Supervisor though as I don't think our best interests are being taken care of at the County level either.
Linda Rames January 14, 2012 at 03:01 AM
Congrats Toni. This award is very well deserved. If not for you and the people working with you, intense development sponsored by non profits might be the new norm in Novato. Your enthusiastic efforts to curb high density housing in Novato will help to derail these projects throughout Marin. I am honored to be your friend and hope to continue working with you for the betterment of Marin County. Would love to see you run for supervisor. Linda Rames, Mill Valley
Craig Belfor January 14, 2012 at 04:03 AM
Funny how this celebration will end up being a story of county tax issues. Since the county gets paid for property taxes that we have to service, and dumps the affordable, non tax paying affordable housing on us, a good investigative reporter would have a good story to run. Unfortunately, all the print reporters feed at the county trough, so it'll fall to Tina, Toni, Edwin, and Bob Ratto to do the real work.
Bob Ratto January 14, 2012 at 08:04 PM
Toni Sorry so late in congratulating you! Your work on so many fronts is appreciated by many and your passion for causes you believe in is simply awe inspiring. You are a fantastic asset to Novato, and I would be most pleased if you would consider running for county supervisor, as your knowledge and common sense would prove to be a huge upgrade from the current malaise/myopia that exists. Keep up the good work, and please be careful out there!
Joyce Lakritz January 15, 2012 at 02:03 PM
Congratulations Toni. I have admired your energy and convicitons for a long time. Happy and healthy New Year to you and yours. Hope to see you on the tennis courts again. Enjoy your wonderful family and thank you for all you do. What an inspiration. Love, Joyce (Lakritz)
Don February 05, 2012 at 05:09 AM
Toni, "THE BEST" Thank you from all of us who care.
Hutch Turner June 30, 2012 at 06:38 PM
Kudos, Toni. Keep that motor running. Unbelievable situation at Costco and not to be tolerated.
Karen Harris October 21, 2012 at 05:55 AM
Greg--there are those that DO and those that criticize. I'm so glad that Toni is the Do-er! Just saying mean petty things like that is just awful! I hope that you can find happiness somewhere somehow.
Tina McMillan October 21, 2012 at 06:19 AM
From what I can tell Greg Weismann is a fake name. Which means yet another angry troll attacking in order to ugly and hurtful. If you hit the inappropriate button three time Brent will take it down. This was posted on another thread yesterday.

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